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Man on trial in car thief's death


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000

TAMPA -- As the first-degree murder trial of Vashon Washington opened Monday, the prosecution and defense could agree on one thing: The victim was a teenage car thief who had just grabbed his last car.

The question for the jury is this: Was it Washington, the man who had just parked that car to run inside the store, who tracked down 16-year-old Richard McClain and shot him dead?

Washington, 23, left the brown 1973 Chevrolet outside a Coastal Mart at Nebraska Avenue and 24th Avenue after midnight Dec. 3, 1999. McClain jumped in and drove away.

Prosecutor Jay Pruner said Washington tracked down his car, and McClain, in a nearby alley. Then, Pruner said, Washington started firing his gun repeatedly, pumping several shots into McClain's lower body.

Police heard the shots and found McClain bleeding on the pavement. He was rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.

Witnesses who knew Washington identified him as the man with the gun, the prosecutor said. Defense lawyer Kenn Littman told the jury that after the theft, Washington called his mother, the owner of the car, and she reported it stolen. Littman said Washington got a friend to drive him home.

The trial is expected to conclude later this week. If convicted as charged, Washington faces life in prison.

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